Monday, September 3, 2007

The Good isn't Gone At Ska Weekend : Great Bands For A Good Cause

This is a short review/personal account of the events I saw at ska weekend this past week in Knoxville, TN. Siafu opened up the show this local Maryland suburban based band played a mix of high energy ska, reggae, and rock. The next band that I saw was Hub City Stompers, who took the stage promptly at 12:30pm. Travis (HCS’s lead singer) dedicated “Chatterbox” to the nazi boneheads that threatened him on the internet. Allegedly they were going to prevent the band from playing the festival. They obviously did not stop anything. The band played two new songs that were in classic HSC style with clever tongue in cheek verse backed with heavy doses of ska/reggae aggro.

Steadfast United played right after HCS and every time I see this group of musicians I am just surprised how much they improve from each performance. Also their lineup seems to change from time to time. Their sound is drenched in old school soul mixed with reggae/ska influences. The drummer is a soul dj (Garden State Soul) and used to drum for Inspector 7. Ambrose has this sort of Jerry Lee Lewis/James Brown stage prescience down to a “T.”

Deals Gone Bad played next the majority of their set was from their new album “The Rambler.” But they did play some older tunes like their Bob Andy cover of “Games People Play” and “Be Mine Tonight.” The festival made it really hard for a lot of people in the middle of the day bands like Westbound Train and Eastern Standard Time played during the same time. A lot of bands took to the streets creating signs, flyers, and other ways to get people to check out their band. 4 stages is really a lot of bands but the festival ran very smoothly. I heard a couple of WBT songs both of them were from their new album “Transitions” the band sounds a lot tighter than the last time I caught them in Baltimore. EST played the best room ever at the Barly’s stage the only stage that was inside at a bar and air conditioned. They played a great set playing their classic ska/jazz/rocksteady material from their past albums. The highlights for me were “That Girl” and “Maddog” (from their first album).

King Django band played a great set made up of numerous selections from Django’s previous bands. Some of the tunes were “Fistful of Riddim”, “I’ve Got To Know” and “Nex Finga.’” I just remember during his set the weather started getting really hot but everyone just kept dancing and singing along. The drummer I noticed had a very small kit with only one crash cymbal, a hi hat, a snare, and a bass drum. My favorite set was Dr. Ring Ding’s he played all type of songs from his massive repertoire. Opening the set was the Skatalites’ inspired instrumental “Dandimite” and the Doctor began to work the crowd. During his set I saw a lot of the bands that played already huddled around the stage to get a chance to see his set. He played a lot of senior allstars material but also played some material he did with bands like Kingston Kitchen (“Fake Romance” being one that stands out in my mind for its Toots and the Maytals early ska sound) and Dubplate 48. He closed his set by doing some of his dancehall solo material including “Doctor’s Darling” which he closed the set with. The end of this song Dr. Ring Ding busted into his Gregory Isaacs impression and reached all the high notes on “Night Nurse.” The Drastics from Chicago really impressed me as they were able to keep every beat on note during Ring Ding’s set being able to play ska, rocksteady, reggae, and dancehall.

After Ring Ding’s set I rushed to refuel and grab some fluids. I didn’t catch much of the Slacker’s set but I did catch Vic making a political rant during one of their songs. I was surprised to see the band all dressed in black suits (Geard their bassie had a white suit). I was really worried for the Pietasters because as soon as they packed all their gear on stage it started raining. I think there was enough time in their schedule the sound guy allowed the rain to cease before they started their set. The Pietasters blasted into their heavy hitting mix of ska, reggae, soul. Playing some crucial oldies like “Maggie Mae” and “Night Owl” they also rocked their new songs (from their new album All Day). I really enjoyed the song about U Street (I think “G to F”). Mustard Plug ended the day and I missed their set as I was too smelly to enjoy anything but a shower.

I did miss some bands I wanted to see. I heard a couple tunes of Voodoo Glow Skulls and they sounded amazing playing some old old tunes. Also I missed Nashville’s AKA Rudie who I had never seen before. Their singer Rob Hoskins is an old friend of mine and I really regret not seeing any of them. Also my friend Cary’s band Lost Martyrs of a Lost Cause played and I missed all of their set. It sucks when you have to choose but there is always next year. Ska Weekend was a great experience. The After Show was pretty rad too I got to see the Drastics play some heavy dub sounds. Steadfast United also played again with some great soul/reggae covers. Both bands utilized the people in the room as a lot of performers were still there so during both sets various guest members jumped on stage creating a sort of off the cuff jam session.

For more on the DC Ska crew's trip to Ska Weekend, visit
The site has just been revamped and better than ever!
Show em' some love.
All photos by Bobby Babylon

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